Melrose 31 - 8 Currie: Melrose make third final on the bounce

TWO tries just after half-time swung this engrossing cup tie firmly the way of the hosts and ensured Melrose would become the first team to appear in three consecutive Murrayfield finals.

There was little between the teams for most of the 80 minutes, a strong and dynamic Currie bidding to keep a league and cup double challenge going beyond Easter and Melrose having picked up in recent games as the scent of another cup final returned to the Greenyards after the prolonged winter. This cup semi-final finished with rain teeming down on the Borders pitch, ensuring a headache for their groundsman ahead of next weekend's sevens tournament, but by then Melrose had the game wrapped up.

The key was finishing, and Rose's more clinical ability to turn possession into points. At half-time they led 10-3 though Currie had enjoyed a good share of the ball in the first period and led through a Johnnie Smith penalty in the 13th minute.

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Smith was a key danger to the home side, the Kiwi darting this way and that in attacking from deep, and finding good support in the physical James Johnston and eager wings Dougie Fife and Willie Moala. But with the likes of Fraser Thomson, Ben Allen and Jamie King, Melrose had their counter-attacking stars too, with terrific effort from both packs of forwards ensuring countless turnovers and opportunities for attack.

Currie's pack are famed for dominating games and they might have left Melrose last night wondering how they finished so well beaten because there was much visible effort from the team in black right to the end of the game. However, at crucial times Melrose were just that step ahead, battling just that few seconds longer for ball on the ground, hitting that bit harder in the tackle and being that bit more secure and dangerous off set-piece ball.

And they had the finish. After Scott Wight, their consistently steady fly-half, had levelled the scores with a penalty in the 29th minute, and more alert Melrose defence had denied Smith from another slick raid on the home 22, King made his first significant imprint on the game.

The opening try was created on the training field and superbly executed, the forwards having created the platform by driving a lineout to the 22 on the right and then when the ball was sped infield King and Jamie Murray pulled the Currie defence apart to create a hole winger Callum Anderson sprinted into. He drew the scrambling cover and fed King, and the centre's pace in support took him to the line on a fine diagonal run.

Currie finished the half with their forwards striving to exert dominance, picking and driving to the home line, but the Melrose defence was resolute and earned reward with a scrum decision which had the Greenyards support in raptures.

If that was significant to the result what happened in the first nine minutes of the second half was more so. Currie had opened brightly, taking the game to the Borderers but were penalised and Melrose took play deep into the Currie half.

John Dalziel, the leader in the Melrose pack, broke off a scrum, and fed King, and he took advantage of Matthew Scott nursing a shoulder injury to break his tackle and score. Wight converted and from the next foray downfield Melrose scored again, this time King breaking the Currie defence, drawing and passing for Anderson to run in the try in a reversal of the first score. Wight again converted and a close game now had a 21-point gap.

Currie worked hard to get back into the game, their defiant spirit clear as openside flanker Jamie Thomson burst clear to score in the right-hand corner.

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The opening of the heavens did nothing to dampen the ambition and enterprise of both sides in the final 15 minutes, but the great early tempo was taking its toll on the legs and the error count grew and gaps in defence widened.

Scott McCormick came off the bench for the redoubtable Robert Chrystie at scrum-half and within minutes he had added his name to the try tally, darting through cheekily from a ruck with just 11 minutes remaining.

Wight converted to stretch the hosts' lead out to a 23-point margin that was barely believable considering the closeness of the overall play, and Currie's pride was clear as they battled to the final whistle, still though against a dogged Melrose defence that was giving nothing up easily, Anderson typifying the grit with a good tackle of Smith into touch that underlined just how much this Melrose squad value cup finals.

Melrose: F Thomson; C Anderson, J Murray, J King, B Allen; S Wight (capt), R Chrystie; R Higgins, W Mitchell, K Cooney, G Dodds, G Elder, J Dalziel, G Runciman, R Miller. Subs used: L Gibson, A Gillie, S Johnson, S McCormick.

Currie: J Smith; W Moala, J Johnston, A MacMahon, D Fife; M Scott, R Snedden; J Cox, A Walker, A Hamilton, A Adam (capt), R Wilson, M Cairns, J Thomson, R Weston. Subs used: N Scobie, J Taggart, S Burton, G White.

Scorers: Melrose – Tries: King 2, Anderson, McCormick; Pen: Wight; Cons: Wight 4. Currie – Tries: Thomson; Pen: Smith.

Referee: Ref: D Changleng (SRU).

Attendance: 605.